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In new plan, four directors would run most of city

A makeover of city government this year will place most departments under one of four directors reporting to Mayor Michael W. Tucker.

"This is being done not just for cost-saving reasons but also for efficiency reasons," said Richard E. Rising, a former Geneva city manager who has been working as a consultant to the city since August. "We need to see more cost savings, from my perspective as an outsider."

The plan responded to budgetary pressures and a state early retirement incentive last fall. The city work force has fallen by 23, or 10 percent, since September.

Rising suggested four senior manager titles: director of planning and development; treasurer/budget director; director of engineering and public works; and director of utilities.

The last of those posts, held by Paula M. Sattelberg, already was in place.

The implementation of the plan began with the Jan. 13 layoff of Streets and Parks Superintendent Michael E. Hoffman, whose duties were handed to Director of Engineering Norman D. Allen.

Allen, henceforth to be known as director of engineering and public works, also will be in charge of streets, parks, city-owned buildings and sewer and water repairs.

Another building block in the plan will be the hiring next month of a director of planning and development.

That director's field of activity will include building inspection, assessing and economic development.

"The right person for that box is someone who has planning and community development skills, but also has hands-on economic development skills," said Rising, an employee of the Harris Beach law firm.

Thirty people applied for that job, and Tucker interviewed about 12 by phone last week, to set up face-to-face interviews with five to seven finalists.

They will be questioned by a panel including Tucker, Rising, two aldermen and four department heads.

However, the appointment is Tucker's, and the Council doesn't get to vote on it.

When City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney retires at the end of this year, City Treasurer Michael E. White may take on the budget role.

The treasurer is an elected official. Although there's been only one contested election for the job in the last 30 years, the possibility exists that someday the mayor and treasurer could be of opposite parties, or people who just don't get along.

That kind of situation exists in Erie County, where Republican County Executive Chris Collins has an ongoing feud with Democratic County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz.

Tucker appointed White in 2006 after James W. Ashcraft Jr. retired..

White, a Republican, said he's willing to take on the budget role. "We feel that would be a good fit to come up here if we get the support," White said.

One newcomer, to take over accounting and payroll, would need to be added to his four-person office.

The new city clerk will remain apart from the four-director structure, as will the police and fire departments, which are overseen by appointed boards. The Youth and Recreation and Personnel departments also will stand apart.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com